The rain continued intermittently into the evening (a welcome sight for rangers and forest dwellers alike, I’m sure!), and I could hear the trees creaking in the wind overnight from my “backcountry” campsite tucked into the forest. I only wondered a couple of times what a disaster it might be if one of the giants fell on my tent while I was sleeping…but I’d taken care to park nearer to stumps and open space than under any big trees. Better safe than sorry! And what lovely, natural sounds to sleep to. I’ll take raindrops and creaky trees over traffic and noisy neighbors any day!
First thing this morning, I travelled the rough road and hiked the short distance to the site of the so-called Chicago Stump. The 20 foot base is all that remains of a sequoia called the General Noble. At 285 feet tall, it was estimated to have been 3,200 years old (!) when it was cut down, disassembled, and transported to Illinois for reconstruction and display at the 1893 World’s Fair. I felt sad as I hiked alone to and looked up at the stump. Visitors scramble to be photographed with the General Sherman (~2,000 years old) and General Grant (~1,650 years old) trees, while what’s left of this one sits alone. Still majestic in my eyes, the stump reminded me of all that was left over of Shel Silverstein’s Giving Tree after man took everything she had to give – her fruit, her branches, and her trunk – then abandoned her for another tree he could take from. Humans sure make me shake my head sometimes.
The rest of the day I spent driving and thoughtful. I took the scenic route back to the coast and south in the direction of San Diego, a side trip I hadn’t initially planned to take. The rolling golden hills of the Central Valley were so beautiful I found myself stopping every few miles for a picture then ultimately realizing it was an impossible task to capture the beauty of their expanse. They looked like endless fields of ripened wheat, dotted with brilliant green oak trees. Underneath a blue sky, it was captivating. And when I started up the final ascent toward the coast, rolling clouds appeared over the hills like a creeping fog, and…wow. Just wow. What beauty!